Monthly Archives: October 2006

4th marathon of October

Wow. I just ran 4 marathons in 22 days.

Chicago is a great running city. The marathon was fantastic. It seemed like the entire city lined up along the course cheering runners on and making a lot of noise. Most of the marathons I’ve run there were people lined along the starting half mile and the finishing half mile. I couldn’t believe people spent their Sunday morning to watch people run.

I didn’t have such a good race. I wanted to race this one as opposed to just running it. Being the last marathon in this experiment I decided to push myself. Not a smart move. Actually, I didn’t race very smart at all. I started out too fast. I hung out with the 3:30 pace group. Actually, one of the many 3:30 pace groups (~8:00/mile). These guys were going fast, somewhere between 7:45-8:00. Okay, I thought, I was feeling pretty good. I’ll likely pay for it later. But since I didn’t have to save myself for another marathon a week later I figured why not. Things were going great up until mile 18 or so. That’s where things sort of fell apart. I was thinking that I’d shatter my PR up until that point and breaking under the 3:30 mark. Then somewhere in between miles 18-22 I thought I could still PR; not shatter it, just beat my Columbus time and come in between 3:30-3:35. Then at about mile 22 the cramping began. And worse, the second guessing.

I’d been pretty good about my diet and rest the entire month. That is, until I got to Chicago. I had 5 days in Chicago before marathon Sunday. Of course I’d have to sample Chicago dogs and deep dish pizza. Chicago dogs aren’t much other than hot dogs with lots of stuff like pickle spears, hot peppers, onions, relish, etc. No big deal. I found the first pizza joint I went to, Gino’s, to be underwhelming. The pie shell was crumbly instead of doughy. Not at all like Zachary’s in Berkeley, the first place I experienced Chicago-style deep dish pizza. Oh, and I also had beer, something I wasn’t supposed to have during this month. When I got to Chicago I allowed myself only one deep dish pizza thinking I’d better watch my diet. But I couldn’t leave Chicago disappointed in the pizza. So the next day I went to another pizza joint, Pizzeria Uno. Again, more beer. And again, underwhelming deep dish pizza. I guess I was going to leave Chicago disappointed in the pizza. A couple of days later on Saturday, I was wandering around Michigan Ave, which was packed with tourists in town for the marathon. I got hungry in the middle of the day and was looking for a fairly healthy place to eat. Nothing on Michigan Ave. Plus, all the places were packed. So I walked off Michigan and away from the crowds but with no particular place in mind. I should have gone to Whole Foods. Instead I found myself near Pizzeria Uno. Okay, I’ll give deep dish pizza another shot. Maybe the first two times where just bad days. I found a seat at the bar of the otherwise packed restaurant. Actually, I sat at the same seat as the other day. And yep, the same result too. Disappointing pizza. So the bottom line… Chicago-style deep dish pizza in Chicago just isn’t that good, at least at the touristy spots. Oh… and I also had a lot of coffee in Chicago. Another thing I should not have been eating/drinking this month. And it wasn’t even good coffee!

Back to the actual marathon… I had a hard time all day with hydration and gel intake. I think the acid buildup over the week from all the coffee gave me some sort of acid reflux type symptoms. Early on in the race I felt like something was stuck in my esophagus, which didn’t encourage me to take in water early on. I’m sure this exacerbated the cramping later on. Anyway, I finished at 3:42:15. Here are my splits:

5k – 0:24:10
10k – 0:47:53
15k – 1:11:56
20k – 1:37:19
Half – 1:42:43
25k – 2:02:21
30k – 2:28:36
35k – 2:56:01
40k – 3:27:58
Finish – 3:42:15

For comparison, here are Dean’s splits…

5k – 0:23:34
10k – 0:48:10
15k – 1:12:41
20k – 1:39:21
Half – 1:44:48
25k – 2:04:42
30k – 2:30:43
35k – 2:55:33
40k – 3:19:08
Finish – 3:28:19

I didn’t see Dean on the course (there were 40,000 other runners!). But I was with him, timewise, up until the 35k mark. Clearly though, I need to do a better job pacing myself.

Oh… and I had a much better hostel experience compared to Victoria. The hostel staff had a free pasta feed the night before. Although, for some reason, they scheduled a halloween party after the pasta feed in the dining hall for some of the international kids (I think either staying at the hostel or from the many colleges in downtown Chicago). Five of the guys in my room were running the marathon also, one from Houston, one from the OC, a German, Luis (a.k.a. Lucho) from Bogota Columbia, and a guy from London. I’m pretty sure I was the slowest of the bunch. Houston finished at 2:38, OC at 2:39, Luis (who was running his first marathon) at 2:50, the German at 3:08, and I didn’t see London after the marathon. Another guy I chatted with post-marathon who finished at 3:00 offered advice on how to be fast… just run a lot of miles. How many miles did he train for, I asked. He peaked at 90 miles a week! Oh, it’s that simple? I don’t think I even peaked at 40. In any case, it was inspiring to be in the company of serious marathoners, unlike the undisciplined schmucks like me.

Oh, and I shouldn’t get down on myself for not racing so well. At least I didn’t fall down and hit my head like this guy. The $125,000 in prize money is a small consolation for the shame and embarrassment that I’m sure will last a lifetime.

So the bottom line is… it is possible to run 4 marathons in a month with some respectable times and not injure myself. There are a few things I need to figure out. The Chicago Marathon is awesome. But the deep dish pizza leaves something to be desired.

Here are some random pictures from Chicago…

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Viva Voce and the Who’s That Smell Game

A friend recently turned me onto Portland band, Viva Voce. Recently as in last week. So I looked them up and found out they were playing a show in Chicago while I’m here for the marathon. And the show is Friday night, not the Saturday before the race, so I could go. The day of the show I was still undecided about going. It wasn’t that I’d be going alone since I go to a lot of shows by myself and discover a lot of good music that way. It was more like they’re a Portland band so I can see them often. So as usual, an hour before the show started I decided to go. I’m glad I did.

The show was at a place called the Empty Bottle. Really, just a hole in the wall. I almost passed it by without noticing. Getting there was an adventure. First, the train was delayed. Apparently, someone on an earlier train decided to get off the train… and not at an official stop, if you know what I mean. Then when I got on the bus transfer, I noticed an odd smell. I assumed it was late-night-public-transportation smell. Then I noticed that every single person who got on at subsequent stops would sit down in the seat in front of me. Then they would immediately get up and move to the back of the bus. Then people started opening windows. In 40 degree cold. Finally, the bus driver yells back “What’s going on back there? Why are y’all got your faces covered?” I look back and yep, everyone has a scarf, pulled up shirt collar, or hand covering their nose. One of the riders back there yell back “someone’s hygeine ain’t right”. I laugh. Yeah, it’s who I thought it was. The bum two seats ahead of me. As soon as he gets off the bus all of a sudden smells like roses. Of course, who are the only people to remain sitting in that seat ahead of me? The lefty-bleeding-heart-it’s-not-his-fault-he-smells-it’s-the-system’s-fault-liberal white couple. To everyone else, the dude is just rank.

Anyway, I catch the 2nd opening band, Silversun Pickups, in the middle of their set. They rocked. I thought they were local since they had a huge turnout. But I find out later they’re from LA. Then Viva Voce come on. They’re doing their sound check. Then all of a sudden they go into what seemed like 12 minutes of kick ass noise. Holy crap, these guys rock! Man, I’m glad I went. I really needed a kick of energy before the marathon.

BTW, what the hell is Old Style? Signs were all over the place on Western Ave.

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15 days, 3 marathons, 1 PR

Man, I have to say, Columbus is an awesome city to run a marathon in. The crowds were great, the other runners were great, and the city is pretty darn flat. Conditions in Columbus today were perfect for running. Temperatures were in the upper 30s, low 40s, mostly sunny, and light breezes. The Columbus Marathon is a small- to mid-sized marathon, less than 4000 marathoners and even less half-marathoners, meaning no large crowds to fight through. My only complaint about the marathon was having the marathoners start at the same time as the half-marathoners. At some point on the course, the half-marathoners split off, then miles later they rejoined us. It caused a bit of confusion having different mile markers. One of my split times is off because of this. But man, I totally rocked this one. I tagged along with the 3:30 pace group most of the way. The pacer was going a bit faster than 8:00 per mile but I was keeping up. I made a pit stop later and fell behind, but still within sight of the pacer. I felt good the whole way through. Yeah, all 26 miles, no stopping, no walking, no cramping. I slowed down a bit the last few miles but I wasn’t going to settle for a sub-4:00 and just enjoy the run this time. I had a PR within reach and was racing this marathon, not just running it. And man, when I hit downtown, the crowd really pumped me up and helped me to a sprint for the last quarter mile. Final time: 3:35:50, I beat my previous PR by 1:18. Columbus was awesome!

Here are my split times.

Mile – Split
1 – 8:02
2 – 7:38
3 – 7:31
4 – 8:05
5 – 8:00
6 – 8:09
7 – 7:17
8 – 9:33
9 – 7:41
10 – 7:47
11 – 7:49
12 – 7:59
13 – 8:30
14 – 7:29
15 – 7:59
16 – 7:59
17 – 9:18
18 – 7:45
19 – 8:31
20 – 8:31
21 – 8:31
22 – 8:11
23 – 8:48
24 – 9:17
25 – 9:19
26 – 8:42
Finish – 3:35:50
Average heart rate – 170 bpm

Next week is the last one of these crazy marathons this month, Chicago.

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Marathon #2… Royal Victoria Marathon

I had a feeling marathon 2 wasn’t going to go very well. I woke up Saturday with a sore throat, which is usually a precursor to a cold. Great. I left the house by 8 am to make the 3 hour drive to Port Angeles with plenty of time to take the 12:45 ferry over to Victoria. On the drive up I had to pee every hour. Is that normal during a cold? Maybe it was due to the overhydration? In any case, my kidneys seemed to be either working really fast or not at all. When I would take a sip of water I felt like that sip went straight to my bladder in a matter of minutes. Weird. In any case, I’ll hit Port Angeles with plenty of time to spare for me to park the car, relax, chow down on food, and of course, use the restroom 3 or 4 times. So, since when did it take 4 hours to get to Port Angeles??? Oh man. Still, I allowed for some cushion. I roll into Port Angeles at 12:15. However, little did I know that it was the Dungeness Crab Festival in Port Angeles. You have got to be kidding me. I knew it was the Canadian Thanksgiving holiday weekend, but Dungeness Crab Festival??? I normally dig these kinds of things (Lodi’s Sandhill Crane Festival, Mendocino’s Whale Festival, North Plain’s Garlic Festival, etc), but I was on a mission. The downtown area is jam packed with cars. I make a few drive-bys through the parking lot across the way from the ferry terminal. All full. Oh. Man. With about 15 minutes until the last ferry I could possibly take to pick up my race number leaves dock and no parking spot in site, I panic and decide to take the car that I would not be needing in Victoria with me. $42 to bring me and the car over instead of the $11 for just me. Great. I was miserable and cranky, which is normal for me when I get sick, which is how I know I’m sick, during the entire ferry ride. So cranky that instead of my usual ethusiastic reaction on seeing a Pacific Grey Whale, I was thinking, “my god, haven’t these people seen a freakin’ whale before?”.

Ah, finally in Victoria and I can relax. I check into the hostel, get the keys to my room, go on up to my room, and find out it’s not really room.

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It’s more like a… well, I don’t know how to describe it. At least it had a sink. And a refridgerator. And both took up half of the “room”. At least the “room” was cheap, and considering I had to bring the car over, the size was acceptable. Ah… time to relax. But I was still miserable. And it also happened to be jam night at the hostel. Yeah, Beatles and Bob Marley tributes by French Canadian hippies all night long.

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Somehow I manage to get to sleep at a reasonable hour. I wake up the next morning expecting full blown cold, but miraculously wake up feeling fine. Must have been all antioxidants I was taking in throughout the day before and all the peeing. Man, I am going to have a great race. Except it’s raining. Okay, don’t panic. It’s only drizzle. It’ll stop by the time the race starts. Great! It lets up at 7:30 am at the start of the half-marathon. Only 1 hour until the marathon start. Then the drizzle comes back. Great. My shoes are well ventilated which lets moisture evaporate while I’m running but also lets moisture in while it’s raining. By the time I get to the starting area, my socks are already damp. Normally, it wouldn’t be so bad, but considering I have 2 more marathons to go after this one, blisters could be a really bad thing. What else to do other than to run conservatively? I run so conservatively I finish without needing an ice bath, with no blisters needing immediate lancing, no chafing, and no soreness by dinnertime. I finish at 3:55:47, just a few seconds slower than the week before in Portland, and still sub-4:00, which is my primary goal for all 4 marathons. It only rained during the first half, so I could have pushed myself a bit more. I probably should have since this was my first marathon since my first where I finished below the median for my age-gender division (60th percentile).

No split times or average heart rate since I overestimated the capabilities of my watch.

Lessons learned: (1) fluids and antioxidants work for colds, just be sure to have restroom facilities available; (2) it takes 4 hours to get to Port Angeles.

Some random pictures…

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Marathon 3 next week is Columbus.

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26.2 mile training run… Portland Marathon

One marathon down, 3 more to go. The weather for Portland was pretty ideal. A little on the warm side, but couldn’t really ask for more. I did finish under my goal of 4:00, but really, that seemed like a modest goal. I really was gunning for 3:40. But a few of things go in the way.

First, I caught a cold 3 days before the race. Actually, I caught it sooner, but the fever didn’t hit until Thursday. I ended up going into work thinking things were fine and I was just suffering from lack of caffeine. But nope. Got my coffee, turned down the thermostat in the office a smidge, and couldn’t figure out why I was still feeling warm. After a half hour, the normal time for the caffeine to kick in, I realized I needed to go home. So I cancelled both of the conference calls I had that day and rode the bus feeling pretty miserable. Slept most of that day and didn’t eat much. I normally loose my appetite when I’m sick. Friday was similar except I was feeling a little better by dinnertime but still not 100%. So when I should have been carbo-loading and hydrating, I wasn’t doing much of either. On the bright side though, my Hood to Coast teammates dropped off a nice gift bundle on my doorstep the day before. Thanks guys!

Second, I arrived to downtown a bit later than I would have liked. After waiting in line to check in my bag I only had a few minutes to get to the starting area. And when I did, I got stuck with the 4:15 and 4:30 pace groups and didn’t want to jockey for better position. So for the first 2 miles or so I was running a much slower pace than I normally run. Looking at my split times, that cost me 3 minutes. Things were going great up to mile 17, where I took an unusually long port-a-potty break. Unusual in the sense that I couldn’t quite tell if I was done. Not sure how else to explain it. But I figure that cost me a minute. The ascent up the St John’s Bridge slowed me down a bit but nothing out of the ordinary.

Then somewhere between miles 19-21 I spot Him. Him being Dean Karnazes, a.k.a. Ultramarathon Man, a.k.a. Mr. 50 marathons in 50 days in 50 states. I hear someone say, “look, we caught up to Dean”. I look over and, yup, there he is. I expected him to be surrounded by a crowd, but he’s by himself. I pick up the pace hoping to catch a word with him, telling him something like, “hey, I’ll see you in Chicago”. He helps me out by fiddling with his shoe. Some other dude beats me to him and starts up a chat. Dean is polite and returns the chat. But then Dean becomes Dean, excuses himself, and takes off, leaving both me and the other dude behind. Oh well, at least I saw him. From behind.

Then at about mile 21 the cramps start up. Crap. After cramping up bad in Victoria last year I’ve been trying to keep hydrating during a race. Today, I’d been taking in water at every aid station. Okay, maybe I missed one, but that’s all. So the cramping was especially disheartening. What else to do other than walk it off? So that was the story for the next 5 miles. Learning from experience I slowed to a jog to minimize the effect of the cramping on my time. Things didn’t return back to normal until the last mile but that was probably because I knew the it was ending soon.

Lessons learned: (1) show up early; (2) hydrate more than you think you need to, it might be more important than carbo-loading.

Oh… and Dean finish at 3:44, only 11 minutes faster than me. Holy crap! My 20-mile time was one minute faster! Man. I totally lost it the last 6 miles.

Split times by my watch:
1 – 9:09
2 – 10:15
3 – 7:50
4 – 8:10
5 – 7:42
6 – 8:08
7 – 8:14
8 – 7:44
9 – 8:08
10 – 8:03
11 – 8:09
12 – 8:20
13 – 8:34
14 – 8:25
15 – 8:23
16 – 8:45
17 – 10:01
18 – 9:20
19 – 9:08
20 – 9:36
21 – 9:33
22 – 11:21
23 – 9:29
24 – 10:19
25 – 10:40
26 – 10:01
Official finish/chip time – 3:55:34
Average heart rate: 171 bpm (damn, that’s too fast)

Tune in next week to hear what happened at the Royal Victoria Marathon.

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